Lloyd Cole, Broken Record (Tapete)
by Russ Coffey
You could be mistaken for assuming that Lloyd Coles new album was just for the money. After all, what has he done since his Eighties’ hits? Developed a drug habit? Become a hermit? Blown all his royalties? In fact none of the above. He never did leave music, he simply relocated to the States and quietly built up a back catalogue of low-key, subtle and lyrically sophisticated music.
Gone are the big melodies and infectious arrangements, but yet it all seems appropriate for a man of his age. On this, his ninth solo studio album he affects a kind of understated Americana that frequently sits improbably somewhere between Jacob Dylan’s and Bonnie Prince Billys recent excursions. Coles sure got the voice for this kind of mournful reflective country, but its really the words that make this album live. One problem with the Cole of old was that his lyrics often tried too hard. He would try to impress you with his learning. But songs like Broken Record are just full of simple, accurate observations of little moments that illuminate the complexity of love and life. He has a great ear for detail, the private monologues, and the important conversations. In the pretty Why in the World? Cole talks to a girlfriend about lost optimism and vitality, Maybe Im all dried up inside/Maybe Im not built for these times/Maybe I dont know how to live. And in another musical highlight, The Flipside he describes a moment of unexpected contentedness, And in the last remaining moments/before the sunlight sends us home/Well hear the flipside of That Gentle Melancholy Feeling. Theres upbeat too. “Westchester County Jail” swaggers with a country swing, and “Rhinestones”, with its wasnt looking for troubles/just a lazy eye, is pure Johnny Cash.
The presence of a full band on this album, the first time in over a decade, breathes life into the songs. The production on Coles last outing, 2006s Antidepressant, sounded thin and incomplete. But here, Cole has not only assembled a very effective group of collaborators (including Joan Wasser aka Joan as Police Woman) but also found a sound that is perfectly matched to his voice and ideas. Harmonies counterbalance Cole’s lugubrious baritone, banjos usher in sunshine, and the rhythm section gives everything a sense of purpose. And although the record is still mainly ruminative its good to hear Cole the optimist get the last word, How am I going to deal with double despair/Double happiness!
Publication: The Arts Desk
Publication date: 01/10/10